“It starts with an idea in her head,” said Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jason Reitman on how the ball started rolling with screenwriter Diablo Cody on their latest feature Tully, “and this will frustrate the shit out of you, but she had two sentences of a movie and six weeks later a script showed up, and that was the shooting draft.”

Emphasizing Cody’s raw talent, Reitman added that Cody isn’t the type of writer that works with index cards rather “she knows what the first scene is and starts writing; she walks in the woods and comes out on the other side. It took me seven years to write Up in the Air“.

Reitman was talking about his process with Cody and their Young Adult and Tully star Charlize Theron at tonight’s Tribeca Talks which filmmaker Tamara Jenkins moderated at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center.

Focus Features

In the case of Tully which made its New York Premiere tonight following is surprise Sundance screening, Cody phoned up Reitman and pitched him the simple, sublime logline of a movie “about a mother who has three kids and just had the third child and is suffering from postpartum.”

The filmmaker described Cody’s canon of Juno, Young Adult and Tully as “semi-autobiographical. I feel like we’re strangely writing this diary together.”

However, Theron is an important part of their triad and Reitman described as an actress who is both a “human puppet” and who gets “lost in it”. Typically he finds that actors are either or, but Theron is wonderfully both. “She’s very vulnerable,” and Reitman finds that Theron is accentuated when he pairs with comedic actors like Patton Oswalt in Young Adult and Ron Livingston in Tully. 

“She’s perfectly willing to come across as completely unlikable and flawed and to give you no other angle than it’s 100% real,” added Reitman on Theron. He described a scene in Tully where Theron pulls off an understated joke when she sarcastically retorts a principal at her son’s school; one that goes over the opposing character’s head, but is meant to make the audience laugh.

In painting a realistic environment of a mother at home with a new baby, Reitman and Cody gave out a questionnaire to their friends and cast to collect some sincere details about home life. Reitman said the answers came back specific from how couples’ marriages go quiet after having a baby, to accidentally dropping phones on a baby.

“We live in a time where we tell everyone anything,” said Reitman, “We share on Instagram, on Twitter, but this is something that’s very taboo: You don’t talk about how tough parenting is.”

Jason Reitman’s seventh feature Tully opens May 4 from Focus Features.